Saturday, December 15, 2012

Why we fight, and why we we fight for what we do

The Crescat's recent post is, of course, stupid on so many levels that there's no way we can actually engage at any intellectual level with the author. All we can do is stare in astonishment yet again that a real human being can actually be that stupid.

However, a commenter on my post describes why we New Atheists do indeed confront Christianity in the United States:
I am an escaped Xtian. It did in fact take me more than 20 years to allow myself the freedom to admit my own doubt (mainly due to the overriding presence of the HELLFIRE meme, which threatened me every time I was about NOT TO BELIEVE IN JESUS). . . . Once I had the courage to face the terror of HELLFIRE, and say, "even if it means hell for me, I must be honest about what I believe or don't believe". The amazing was that the HELLFIRE terror vanished when I turned around to face it: I have not been afraid since. It took only my willingness to be honest to make this chimera disappear.
The fear of hell is very real, and it causes a lot of suffering.

The Crescat complains that the American Atheists display "sniveling cowardice" because they choose to confront the evils of Christianity rather than the evils of Islam. But that's complete nonsense. First, a lot of New Atheists do confront Islam, with Maryam Namazie leading the charge, and with, as far as I know, the support of most of the New Atheist community. But there are many problems in the world, and each individual has to fit his or her personal strengths and weaknesses, as well as his or her standing, to the problems of the day, and determine the best use of his or her time. There are three issues that lead most Westerners to focus more on Christianity than on Islam. First, Christianity is the predominant religion in the West. Even if Islam were ten times as bad as Christianity, the total amount of suffering Christianity causes in the West would still be ten times as much as Islam. Second, Westerners have less standing (not none at all, but less) to effect changes in those societies where Islam predominates. We are neither citizens of those countries nor members of those cultures; our criticism is limited to what is appropriate for an outsider. In contrast, since we are citizens and members of our Western, Christian nations and cultures, we have far greater scope to effect changes as insiders. Thus most New Atheists reasonably spend more time on issues that can do more harm and that we can more immediately and powerfully affect.

But there's a bigger issue. There is an enormous tendency among neoconservatives to cloak imperialism in criticism of Islam. The argument is not really that Islam is oppressive; the argument is that the oppression is improperly justified. It's not that Muslims are marginalizing, oppressing, killing, and torturing women, homosexuals, intellectuals, etc. It's that Muslims are marginalizing, oppressing, killing, and torturing women, homosexuals, intellectuals, etc. in the name of the wrong god. If they were marginalizing, oppressing, killing, and torturing women, homosexuals, intellectuals, etc. in the name of Jesus, then it would be all good. Obviously, no neocon critic of Islam is going to come right out and openly make the "wrong god" argument, but when someone actually says we should stop criticizing Christianity and start criticizing others for the same things that Christians actually do, there's really no other conclusion we can reasonably draw than that Christianity cannot be at fault precisely because whatever it does is justified by being in service to the right god. As I seem to recall reading in some book or another:
And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye? Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye.
In other words, if Christians want to be exempt from criticism for their oppression, they could reasonably start by not, you know, actually being oppressive and evil.

1 comment:

  1. I'm the escaped Xtian who posted the indented paragraph above. I have decided quite recently to join the fight to free minds enslaved by the HELLFIRE meme and other inhibitions, of Xtian dogmatic origin, to unfettered thought. As much as anyone, I suffered from the inability to truly love and accept life in my early 20s, so I feel deeply for those whose troubled lives are similarly caught up by concepts they barely understand ("...if you believe in things you don't understand, then you suf-fer..." thank you, Stevie Wonder). Over 3 decades passed, and I kept it to myself, feeling apologetic about my de-conversion, and unwilling to hurt my family, but NO LONGER. There are just too many people out there who don't need to suffer anymore; from my own experience, I know the confusion they wander through... I have recently discovered just how the HELLFIRE meme works in our heads (some recent neuroanatomical experiments helped me greatly); I think my story and how I got free will help others down that tricky path to honesty and self-affirmation - it took me 8 years (compare with Dan Barker's experience, who de-converted more or less instantaneously) to dance the bouncing ice floes in my river of thought to the island where I could stand up to the "god of my childhood", and declare, no, this isn't FACT, isn't TRUTH, AS I UNDERSTAND IT - and that personal understanding, that KNOWING, versus "BELIEVING IN" (whatever), is something I AM PERSONALLY RESPONSIBLE FOR DECIDING (not what someone tells me is "THE word of GOD" or divine truth). How amazing, centuries after the Renaissance, that some of us still need guidance to arrive at the realization that we DO GET TO DECIDE what we believe or not believe...but that's where a lot of us are today; and that's why I have JOINED THE FIGHT.


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